Screenwriting: The Romantic Comedy, Part 2. Teach Me How to Duckie.

Of course if I knew how to write a smash-bang romantic comedy then I’d probably have done it by now. Truth is that I know what I know about screenwriting and making really interesting stories, and based on part one of this series, I’m not happy with how romantic comedies are being written. With the feedback I’ve received so far, it appears that many of you share my feelings.

What I do know is that there is a tried-and-true formula for writing romantic comedies, and the most successful films do high-concept spins off that formula, and the most banal ones follow it to the letter. We see it everywhere, especially in things like haute comfort food. It’s not just a grilled cheese, it’s got cornichons and hand-smoked bacon and fois gras butter. Tastes great, costs a small fortune, but in the end it’s still a fucking grilled cheese sandwich.

I’m tired of that. I want something different. I want us to discover new ways of having people find their true loves, of having them, and struggling to keep them. There’s the bible of romantic comedies - Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit - which is uniformly excellent and worth reading, regardless if you want to write an romantic comedy or not. The book breaks the genre down into a single, seven-step formula and goes to great lengths to show that pretty much every romantic comedy followed said formula. Mernit’s formula is as follows:

1) The Chemical Equation, i.e. the players in the game and what’s missing in his / her life.

2) The Meet Cute, i.e. the crossroads where the two lives intersect for the first time.

3) The Sexy Complication, i.e. the central conflict that keeps the characters from fulfilling the gaps laid out in Step One. This can be both internal and external factors.

4) The Hook, i.e. the big event that throws these two together and it becomes the point of no return.

5) The Swivel, i.e. a reveal that puts one or both characters’ goals in jeopardy.

6) The Dark Moment, i.e. the consequence of the big reveal, which exposes an inner truth / realization of what actually is missing or what they’re doing right or wrong.

7) The Joyful Defeat, i.e. the acknowledgement that the other half is the key, and the willing sacrifice of something to make it all happen.

Mernit goes into great detail of each but this is a bastardized version in a nutshell, and I can’t really argue with it. Where we often see failures in the genre is when our expectations are never really challenged, and on top of that the formula is laden with really dull, mean characters. So let’s rock the boat and fuck with both tenets.

I’ve gone into great lengths some time ago about writing interesting characters, and it’s worth your while to go back and revisit those posts:

Creating Memorable Characters.

Character Relationships

Once we have those interesting characters, insert them into Mernit’s formula and see what happens. You should have an interesting story at it’s most basic, fundamental level, but what happens when you start to rearrange and reinterpret the stages. What happens if the ‘meet cute’ happens at the very end of the movie? What if it never happens at all? The latter would be a very bold step, i.e. a romantic comedy where the leads never once meet. At least physically. Think of a movie like Spike Jonez’ Her, where technically the lovers never meet. They interact but there’s no physical connection (despite a painfully awkward attempt which is one of the truly great scenes I’ve witnessed). What if the final sacrifice involves saying goodbye forever, a la Roman Holiday? It’s been done before but what makes it so memorable is the lead-up to that moment. A couple that is so perfect for each other and yet the forces of the universe keep it from happening. The ultimate sacrifice is their love itself, which is a very powerful thing. it plays into the notion that there is no such thing as an everlasting love, because the truth is that death will tear us apart at some point. But there is an elemental love, one that exists in ether, one that death cannot touch. It’s a love that is incredibly difficult to fit into the romcom formula, but I feel if we can do that, we will redefine the genre and bring it back to its glory.

Play with the formula by first writing your story to the formula. Then go back and write the exact opposite of the formula’s demands, one section at a time, and see what happens. Defy expectation, take the path less traveled. Most of the time it won’t make sense but if your characters are true, interesting and compelling, they will take you to very interesting places. Trust your characters, and observe how they would react. One of the most important things to remember is something I call the Mamet Rule, which is David Mamet’s central questions regarding characters:

What does the character want? What happens when they don’t get it?

Deny your characters at all phases. See what happens. Give them a little back. See what happens. Take it away. See what happens. The most unconventional of reactions is where the root of your comedy and drama lays.

I keep thinking of the character Duckie from John Hughes’ screenplay for Pretty in Pink. He is memorable to me because he is constantly denied what he wants. He reacts with both spoken and physical comedy, and his journey is quite tragic. He journey strikes a chord in my heart, as the plight of the fool, which universally is something every romantic has in his / her heart. Putting your love out there is an act of borderline humiliation, but we do it anyway because love is irrational. Duckie is a real character and we get to see what happens when he is denied what he wants. It defies the formula because theoretically it is the story of Andie Walsh and Blane McDonough, but in my view it is Duckie’s story, which kind of blows my mind.

We cannot break rules unless we know the rules in the first place. More importantly we have to accept that while there is the notion of classic, romantic love (which is what the formula gives us), modern love has evolved into something very different. Just think - had there been cell phones and email, most of the problems of romantic comedies would be solved. There’s no need to run to the airport. Feelings can be conveyed in an instant. Flash mobs can be posted on YouTube. Courtship has changed, and no matter our desire for things to be the way they were, the reality is that while romance is still about getting lost in love, we have a GPS in our phones to get out of it. Let’s work with the modern notion of love and courtship and craft authentic stories, with authentic characters, that let us connect to our condition. I think a film like Her accomplishes this with tremendous success, as the desire in a technology-ridden world is the desire for actual, physical contact. That desire is tempered by the protective shield that technology gives us, it feeds into our survival instincts of not wanting to get hurt. Play with these notions, put your characters in them and see how they react. You’ll be telling the tale of modern love.

Screenwriting: The Romantic Comedy, Part 1. What Happened?

I came across an article a few weeks ago that discussed which genre had the most original screenplays. In an industry rife with remakes and sequels, I assumed it was the world of low-budget horror where the most original works were to be found. I was wrong. It was romantic comedies that held that title.

I have a hard time accepting this because for the most part, there really hasn’t been a more derivative or lifeless genre in the movie industry for the past twenty-odd years. Sure there have been one-off successes (Bridesmaids comes to mind, but it’s a stretch to call it ‘romantic’) but for the most part as a genre it’s been pretty flat out awful.

But here’s the thing - it’s an insanely profitable genre. Ever since the industry came up with the idea of counter-programming, i.e. giving the sophisticated ladies something to watch while their knucklehead boyfriends watch the latest installment of Transformers, there’s been a need for romantic comedies to be churned out. And since there’s a ton of knucklehead movies, there’s gonna be a ton of romcoms.

With pretty much every Nicholas Sparks novel being exhausted and every holiday ruinously exploited (Valentines Day, New Years Day - both AWFUL), desperate Hollywood and Indies alike have decided to hit below the belt and go after that most uncomfortable of targets - women’s self-esteem.

Hey ladies! Can’t find a man? Unmarried by the age of 33? Can’t conceive? Feeling fat and ugly? Overworked with kids? Don’t know how she does it? Unrecognized at work with a nagging misogynistic boss who for whatever reason you feel the desire to fuck? Let’s have 99-lb Kate Beckinsale with mussed-up hair and no makeup play you and show a remarkable transformation via expensive clothing, soft lighting, five layers of Spanx and “empowerment” in the form of a swift knee to the boss’ crotch.

In the past week I’ve sat down with Netflix and negotiated the treacherous psychological minefield of the Romantic Comedy queue. Movie after movie was women denigrating themselves, calling themselves stupid, fat, ugly, hopeless, not worthy and undesirable. Almost universally it took a handsome bohemian man to let these ladies know that they are in fact the opposite of what they believe, this despite a quasi-fugly female / gay bestie comic relief who eventually comes around the end and tells our newly made over (and owner of her newly opened flower shop!) heroine to “go get him.” Ensue comidic running / driving / general humiliation that culminates in a choice - should be with the male model asshole or the male model bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold-who-keeps-it-real, because, you know, there’s only two guys in the universe. Guess who she ends up with.

One after another. Low-budget indie to multimillion dollar star vehicles, it was this same derivative crap. And they’re not funny, they’re mean spirited, with humor coming in the form of humiliation and insults. I’ve seen the true face of nihilism and it’s not No Country for Old Men, it’s the collective works of Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. Paint the face of human tragedy with a pregnancy test and a fake eHarmony profile. It’s dreadful.

Where did it all go wrong? Poor Nora Ephron and John Hughes are spinning in their respective graves. There is a very rich and beautiful history of romantic comedies, from classics like Roman Holiday to the penultimate When Harry Met Sally. Movies that made us laugh, made us think, made us cry. Romcoms today are like the cold steel of grandpa’s shotgun put between our teeth. They exist to point out our shortcomings and propose “solutions” that are based on superficiality and psychological placebos.

I want to see great romantic comedies again, and I know so many men and women want them too. They’re the stories of our lives, our pursuits of love and happiness, and sometimes they don’t always work out (cue Audrey Hepburn with that look, the one that melts my heart every time).



The commonality to all these great romcoms is a dose of sadness, with either love unrequited or the pains of separation, be it permanent or temporary. Perhaps this is the missing element to today’s romcoms, which tend to focus on a woman somehow gaining all that she perceives that she lacks (a good man, a solid career, the ability to balance life and love), whereas romcoms of the past (and by past I mean the 80s and previous), it is not about the practicality of love, rather it is a portrait of how messy and impractical love can be.

It’s important to always remember that a key element to comedy is tragedy. It’s a basic tenet displayed in the universal symbol of the theater with the masks of Melpomene (Tragedy Mask) and Thalia (Comedy Mask). The two are inextricably linked, as Nietzsche famously stated “beneath the conformist, there lives the satyr.” Dante called The Inferno a part of “The Divine Comedy,” implying a sentiment best coined by Jules Renard which is that if we “look for the ridiculous in everything, eventually we shall find it.”

The notion of romantic love in and of itself is absurd, that we’re at times willing to risk life and limb for nothing but a mere “feeling.” It is that absurdity, that impracticality, which makes it so inspiring. It speaks to our crazy, irrational selves, the reckless abandon that invokes the freedom of youth, the liberation that comes with naivety. Love is about not always doing the right thing, it is sloppy, it rarely makes sense. The greatest romantic comedies understood this.


Reality Bites, one of my faves.

The modern romantic comedy is desperately trying to create order from chaos, trying to make sense of messy lives and label and compartmentalize them, trying to find practical and marketable solutions to impractical problems. They are giving us practical fantasies, whereas the best romantic comedies gave us impractical realities.

What befuddles me more is that a vast majority of these romcoms are being written by women, and yet these stories are relentlessly cruel to women, and show women being relentlessly cruel to each other while the men stand by and watch. It’s like those girlfights in high school where one girl finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her, and instead of going after the guy she goes after the other girl. Never made sense to me. Men in romantic comedies get away with murder while it is the women who suffer. If that’s meant to be a mirror of society, then well, we’re seriously fucked.

To repair the genre, we have to acknowledge three things. The first is that romantic love presents no easy solutions, and the second is that people should not be cruel to each other, because fate and destiny provide enough cruelty to handle. The third thing to accept may sound radical but it really isn’t, and that is to accept that romantic comedies are not the sole voice of women. Romcoms are not women’s stories, they are simply stories. Pandering to the insecurities of women is violence in the written word, and it needs to stop. Misery loves company, and it makes for rotten art. Think of all those Photoshopped covers of women’s magazines that accomplish nothing but instilling insecurity in women and false expectations in men. They are lies about what is considered life, they are fabrications of the highest order.


One of these people exist.

Armed with these three revelations, in the next segment we’ll talk about how to approach writing a romcom. In the meantime I urge you to watch a few romcoms, both modern and classic, and see if these observations I’ve made ring true. I’d love to know your take on it.

Made for Rockets

New Canyons

Everyone Is Dark

Played 180 times

Music for the Weekend: Made for Rockets by New Canyons.

Been listening to this brilliant record by New Canyons and it’s dripping with romance, lots of swooning and sweeping synths, John Hughes-era heart-on-sleeve brand of longing. I really like it, and as I’m in the throes of writing, it got me thinking - what the hell happened to the romantic comedy?


Really? Is this the best we can do?

So I’ve decided that I’m going to spend the coming blog posts on figuring out a) what happened to the romantic comedy and what’s wrong with romantic comedies today, b) how we can approach writing the romantic comedy, and c) what constitutes romance in the first place. Maybe not in that order but I really want to delve into it.

Contrary to popular belief, I love a good romantic comedy. Who doesn’t want to laugh and rekindle the feelings of love and infatuation? It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen a truly great romantic comedy, and I think it’s worth spending the time to figure it out. We all serve to benefit from that.

Going to cram in a few RomComs this weekend in prep, for better or worse. 27 Dresses here I come!


Jesus Christ give me the strength…

Don’t ever say I never suffered for you. Have a great weekend!

Writing: A Study of Horror.

In the age of DIY digital filmmaking, the glut of horror films on the market is at an all-time high. Peruse the horror section on Netflix and you’ll see countless films, some of which are very good, some which are okay, and most of which are downright dreadful.


Uh, okay.

I guess when George Romero made Night of the Living Dead and Sam Raimi made The Evil Dead for pittances, the horror genre became the default zero-budget film genre. There’s no reason why other film genres can’t be zero-budget affairs (Shane Carruth made the brilliant sci-fi film Primer for $7,000), but when one thinks of doing a zero-budget movie, horror seems to be the go-to genre.

This is likely because horror films are much easier sells, so the likelihood of your making your money back on a nonsense horror film is pretty favorable. And if the film is exceptional then there’s the potential for explosive profits. Paranormal Activity and The Blair With Project are cases in point.

So why don’t we see more Paranormal Activity and The Blair With Project type horror films? Well, in actuality, we do. All the time. There are scores of imitators of said films, all hoping to cash in and find that kind of phenomenal success. Blumhouse Productions, who are behind franchises like Paranormal Activity and Insidious have turned the $3-5m horror film into one of the most profitable film ventures in modern history. Blumhouse knows there’s an insatiable thirst for horror, and they’re giving us just the bare-minimum scares to whet that appetite.

But even Blumhouse’s films fail to reach the astronomical success of those original horror films, they’re playing the margin game, and not the horror game. I’ve watched the Blumhouse films and while there are jump scares galore, the films are far from scary, horrifying or chillingly disturbing. They’re exercises in atmosphere and cheap parlor tricks, and rarely scratch the surface of what is truly scary.

There are many horror imitators but few innovators, which can be said for almost all the genres, but horror especially. This is because writing anything original takes a lot of hard work, and original ideas are a significantly bigger risk.

But with horror, is it really such a big risk? If you’re going at it with zero-budget, why not just go all-out and try something really bold? That was my mindset on Lilith, and truthfully I did make a very different kind of horror film, I took insane risks, and we’ll see if it pays off. (It actually has, and I’ll get into that once my distributor gives me the green light to write about it.)

Being risky in horror doesn’t mean you have to go and reinvent the wheel. There’s been dissertations about the cliches of horror movies (sex = death, cabin in the forest, students making a documentary, etc.) and before you go about writing your horror story, become familiar with what is out there. Watch as many horror films as you can, and make notes about characters, location and setup. See the overwrought cliches and find out what you think is tired, and what resonates with you.

I’ve always felt the key to great horror is centers around a singular concept, which is the loss of control. What is most terrifying is that we have no ability to control what happens to us, and that we have no sense of what is out there, meaning we have no idea what to prepare for.

Think of a common horror trope, which is walking down a dark hallway towards a door that has a light emanating from underneath it. Your character walks towards the door - she says “hello” but nobody responds.

"Momma is that you?"

No response. She pushes closer, looking back over her shoulder.

As she gets closer to the door, she hears something - a woman crying and a young child giggling.

"Momma?"

She presses her ear to the door. Beyond the giggling and crying, the sound of high tension wires being stretched to their limit.

She puts her hand on the doorknob, and turns it slightly. Everything goes silent.

She hears the pitter-pat of a child’s footsteps on the floor above her, running to the other end of the house.

She turns around and-

We have several places we can go from here. Everything before that was the buildup, which is essential to a good, proper horror scare. Cliches give us some options. She can open the door and:

a) No one is there.

b) No one is there, she sighs, turns around and comes face to face with a ghostly child / cat jumping out

c) No one is there, she sighs, but a friend (who somehow managed to make no noise walking up to her) grabs her by the arm and asks where’s she’s been.

d) He sees the disemboweled corpse of an older woman, she puts her hand on her mouth, and quietly behind her two kids, each holding butcher knives, slowly walk up to her.

Each choice can deliver a chill, a well-tested chill, a fail safe chill. But let’s push it forward, let’s try to make it truly uncomfortable and macabre.

e) She enters the room which has a singular light bulb. Below the bulb is a length of razor wire that has fresh blood on it. The girl crouches and picks up the wire. She hears a whisper and her eyes roll into the back of her head. She places the wire across her open mouth and begins to apply pressure, cutting the corners of her mouth. She’s on her way to severing her lower jaw when her friend finds her and yanks the wire away, and the girl turns and speaks in the voice of a tortured older woman, screaming “Let her die!”

That gives us something really macabre to work on. It’s not a great example but it’s something far more original, and it lends to the idea of not only an outside threat, but something that can take control of our faculties, that can make us do things against our will. It’s why the notion of possession, a common thread throughout the truly great horror films, is an interesting path to tread. Possession is an interesting notion because it makes an enemy of those things we trust the most - ourselves and our loved ones - and truthfully that’s terrifying for me.

Doesn’t mean that to write great horror you have to go the route of possession. But know this - possession is fiscally economical. It’s all acting and directing, there’s no special effects involved. Give Jack a wicked grin, demented motivation, and an axe and that’s all it takes for him to become a monster in The Shining. Add in sound effects and music in post and you’ve got someone truly terrifying.

But if you want to go creature feature, know that less is more. Alien comes to mind, where hints of the creature make it all the more dreadful than seeing the full monty. Same with The Blair Witch Project, where we never once see the titular character. But they’re always there, always seeing, always getting closer, and that’s what makes them terrifying. Once again, our protagonists have control snatched away from them in the form of an unpredictable and shrouded monster. Hiding your creature also makes for a chilling reveal in your final climax.

It’s important to note that the core of horror is not people dying gruesome deaths. That’s why torture porn is so ineffective as a horror medium, it’s just a gross-out show. The core of horror is loss - loss of control, loss of sanity, loss of humanity, all of which amounts to destruction of the soul. A homicidal maniac is not the true evil, the true darkness is what the maniac makes us do in the name of survival. In current horror we’re obsessed with outside terror, and where the real meat is what happens within us. It’s why The Walking Dead is so effective. That series is not about the evil of zombies, it’s about the evils that people commit when there is no law, no civility, no humanity left. The zombies are just the catalyst.

Ultimately horror today is a physical medium, and the psychological medium has been lost. Let’s bring that back and write good psychological horror again, and combine that with the best of today’s physical terror. Do that, and your zero-budget horror will feel massive in scope, it will be important and it will resonate with audiences. Let’s do it!

Screenwriting: What Are You Doing Here?

Just your friendly reminder that ‘Lilith’ is now available for download and DVD pre-order. You can order both the download and DVD (which has tons of cool stuff the download doesn’t have) directly from the distributor by clicking here, or by using the following link: http://store.nehst.com/lilithdvd.html

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This isn’t so much a lesson as it is an observation, but it’s also a call to arms to break out of old habits. Someone told me a long time ago that the most commonly used line in all of cinema and television was the question "What are you doing here?" I shook my head and offered the smarmy rebuttal that it would more likely be the word “Hi” or “What’s your name?

Many years have passed since that conversation and now I can’t watch a single television program or movie without hearing the phrase what are you doing here uttered. It’s so very true - the phrase is used everywhere - and I really started to wonder why. As I’ve been in the midst of these screenwriting posts and in the process of rewriting several scripts, I figured now was the best time to assess the usage of this question.

I started taking note of when the phrase was used and in what context, and at first its usage was quite obvious, which was to explain why some person who shouldn’t be there is all of a sudden there. Then there’s the inflections and emphasis used - what are you doing here, what are you doing here, and what are you doing here. The first variation is more of a misplacement, like a “Hey dickwad -you weren’t chosen to be on the team.” The second emphasis is a personal attack in the vein of “you’re a dickwad - this foosball tournament is for people with actual talent.” The third iteration is in relation to someone being in the wrong geography, sort of a “yeah, dickwad, this is the cool kids’ table, the fuck are you doing here” variety.

The binding factor is that it’s all about someone who’s in a place where they’re not supposed to be, and from a storytelling standpoint, it’s the driver of a narrative in the most random-yet-feasible way. I started to see the use of the phrase as an easy out. If a screenwriter is stuck in a situation and has no idea how to get their characters out of a predicament, then just have someone show up, and then have them explain why they showed up.

Guy is being chased by a bunch of goons, is chased into an alley. He comes upon a dead end. Guns are drawn. Our hero doesn’t have a weapon. He’s a goner. Head goon utters a witty one-liner, something to do with revenge and fucking someone’s mother. Our hero closes his eyes and awaits a shower of bullets, which rings out in a cacophony of violence. Our hero - still alive - opens his eyes and sees all the goons dead on the ground. Through the haze of gunsmoke walks a heavy-set woman carrying a submachine gun, wearing a floral print mu-mu and with curlers in her hair. Our hero looks at her and utters:

"Ma? What’re you doing here?"

Any kind of explanation can follow ("I just happened to be in the neighborhood" or "Mindy told me all about the fake diamonds and said you’d be here") or it can be a lazy heat-of-the-moment excuse to delay the explanation ("We’ve got no time, I’ll explain later!") or it can even be a rhetorical question (“I should ask you the same question, dickwad.”). Any which way, our hero is magically pried out of his seemingly impossible predicament, momma’s joined in the journey, and the situation just got a little bit more interesting.

So I can see why it’s used all the fucking time in movies and television. Even some of the greatest movies of all time use it. But I can’t help but think that it needs to be retired. For some reason it reeks of lazy writing to me, a quick patch for a tough situation. Sure there will always be the need for an element of surprise, but I think we need to figure out a different way to do it.

In both of my feature films - Lilith and 19 Revolutions - I purposely avoided using the phrase, and I’ll be honest, it was not easy. It became very apparent that “what are you doing here” has been programmed into our brains from a very young age, and I was forced to find new, fresher ways to introduce characters or get my characters out of predicaments. By getting rid of “what are you doing here,” I was put to the task of really fleshing out why someone would actually be in that place at that time, and it made my narratives that much stronger. The logic worked.

That’s not to say we can’t have random encounters in our stories. The terror and uneasiness of a character seeing her husband walking into a bar with another woman would naturally bring up the phrase of “what are you doing here,” but try not to use that phrase. Think of another way to do it. Say she sees him, and looks at her cell phone, which has a text message from her husband saying “Hanging out with Greg, gonna be late.” She walks up to him at the bar and surprises him by extending her hand to the other woman, saying “Hi. You must be Greg. I’m Esme, Steven’s wife.”


"Jesus H Christ - not this AGAIN."

Steven’s reaction can also be a cliched “what are you doing here,” but again, think harder, and make it more creative. “Are you following me?” can be a much more interesting response than “Esme, what are you doing here?”

Things become cliches because they’ve worked over and over again for us, and they’re fail safe. But they’re tired, and they make things predicable. And when things get predictable, they get boring. And we don’t want to write boring stories. It’s time we as writers should draft a “Dogma 2012” manifesto of the cliches we need to avoid. When I was in film school we did such a thing, ruling out the top cliches for our student films. There would be no shy guys who didn’t know how to talk to the pretty girl. There would be no extended takes of people shaving or brushing their teeth. There would be no pictures of dead loved ones or exes on the piano. Suicide was never going to be an option for any characters - it’s just too easy an out. Girls being chased by axe murderers can’t trip and fall. Axe murderers - once they get a bullet in the head and are pronounced dead - cannot come back to life. Cats should not jump out of the dark. Men and women cannot orgasm at the same time. Shotguns need to be held with two hands. Luggage needs to be heavy (I’m amazed by people in movies hauling luggage that seems to weigh 10lbs). If our hero gets shot (in the shoulder, of course) - then he needs to dress that wound asap before he continues to fight.


Uh, you’re probably gonna want to have that treated.

When you rule out the cliches, you’re forced to find new ways to tell your stories. Sometimes you’ll find that you just have to have cliche happen - mathematically, a man and a woman could very well orgasm at the same time - but then make sure that it has purpose and a narrative meaning. Make it happen for an interesting reason - a guy’s having sex with an android that’s programmed to climax when he does, because the manufacturer of the droid knows the importance of customer satisfaction and to not assault the ego of the buyer. Corporate sex, at your command.


Aaaand that’s just creepy.

And don’t cheat. You can’t have someone ask “where did you come from” and have it replace “what are you doing here.” That’s like messing with the margins and font to meet the requirements of a one-page essay. Have fun with it - defying a cliche can make for the most seemingly random of dialogue and actions. How we react to something can be fascinating, and reacting in a manner that is not of the norm can be exhilarating. After an evil mastermind kills a dude, you can either make her laugh menacingly, or you can have her pick her nose until it bleeds. I ask you - which one is more interesting?

Screenwriting: How to Get an A-list Actor

Another friendly reminder that ‘Lilith’ is now available for download and DVD pre-order. You can order both the download and DVD (which has tons of cool stuff the download doesn’t have) directly from the distributor by clicking here, or by using the following link: http://store.nehst.com/lilithdvd.html

Back to business of the blog - it’s a good one, very important for screenwriters! :)

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Waitaminute. What does getting an a-list actor have to do with screenwriting? Technically, it doesn’t. But we have to look at our greater goals. The entire purpose of going on the endeavor of writing a screenplay is to eventually get it made into a film. A screenplay is essentially a proposal for a completed film, it’s a blueprint to a vision that needs a lot of people to come together on and make happen. And in order to get a lot of people, we need to have money. And in today’s financing environment, we need a marketable actor to champion our script.


This was an actual movie. That had a screenplay. And got financed.

Of course this is not gospel. We can make movies on shoestring budgets with unknown actors, and what is marketable is our high concept. We can find really talented young actors and help make them into the superstars of the future. This is my personal belief, and I’ve done it so far. But I’ve also found that my budgets under this model have been extremely limited, and it takes a long, long LONG fucking time to raise those funds. The fastest and quickest way to get a healthy budget - and by healthy I mean a budget that affords you the time to exercise your craft - you’re going to need to get a marketable actor attached to your screenplay. That will get you through the door faster than anything, and it will get you money faster than you can imagine. It’s not a foriegn concept - I just finished reading Christine Vachon’s brilliant memoir A Killer Life and the key to the success of her production company Killer Films was to uphold the director’s vision and get the right people attached to the project to get financiers to pony up cash. It’s because financiers are wanting to hedge their bets - a high concept is not a sure thing, but a high concept with a marketable actor (see movies like Source Code, Moon or Looper) - then we have a fighting chance to recoup that money. It’s worth a shot, and if that doesn’t work, just journey on and raise that money.

The main key in getting an A-list actor is to write a powerful, impressionistic opening sequence that introduces the lead character in an unforgettable manner. You want to imagine an actor reading your script and within the first five minutes saying “I need to play this part.” It’s because actors are also artists, and they have a desire to do meaningful work. Likewise, we have to imagine if we present our script to a producer, they can immediately in their mind cast for that part and help you pursue that actor.

So what goes into a powerful introduction? There are four elements, listed here in the order of importance:

The Situation.

The Initial Action.

The Initial Dialogue.

The Description.

The Situation. The key to a strong situation is to challenge the character. Challenging a character allows us to be emotionally engaged with them. We have to put our characters in a specific circumstance, and challenge them with it. The most basic challenge is to have the character be in a predicament where they either lose or maintain their values.

In There Will Be Blood the opening situation - Daniel Plainview mining for gold on his own in a desolate location - is extremely challenging. He is charged with the immense task of doing the work of ten men on his own. Plainview injures his leg, and he’s faced with something that will challenge his core values - stay for the money (someone else will take his gold), or tend to his well being. He chooses the former, and it says a lot about him as a man. If we study how P.T. Anderson built this opening, we see that he is engaging us by throwing us into the pit with Plainview, and he keeps making it interesting by throwing in suspense (the burning fuse of dynamite) and twists (literally - the injury of Plainview) that give us opportunities to field the choices that Plainview makes. One of the overriding feelings when watching that sequence is that most men would have died in that situation, either by pain or simply giving up, but Plainview is not an ordinary man. His tenacity in the face of his situation is what makes him unforgettable.

There Will be Blood Opening from Media Clips on Vimeo.

The Initial Action.

There are essentially two types of action: meaningful and meaningless. Meaningful action is something that delivers the essence of the scene. It explains it through action, and not dialogue. Meaningless action is simply an action, and we have to always ask ourselves if it is not contributing to the meaning of a scene, then is it at least visually compelling. The ideal, of course, is to have meaningful action that is also visually compelling.

When creating a powerful opening scene, we ask ourselves first what the meaning of the scene is, and then we have to devise a way to deliver that meaning through action. The exercise for this is to write a scene completely devoid of dialogue. We do this because dialogue, as much as it is a vital part of a modern screenplay, exists not to tell a story, but rather to entertain, deliver character, point to subtext, and create anticipation. It should never, ever deliver the meaning of a scene.

This can be seen in the introduction of one of the truly great iconic characters of recent film - Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men played by Javier Bardem. Our introduction of Chigurh by the Coen Brothers is absolutely unforgettable - he is apprehended by the police and he proceeds to murder a police officer by strangulation, and then continues on by calmly killing an innocent bystander by means of a cattle gun. The situation is odd - we don’t know who, when or why this is all happening, but it is arcane and gruesome, and it’s entirely delivered through action. The dialogue in the scenes - the officer talking on the radio and the banter between Chigurh and the innocent passerby - never deliver the scene’s meaning, which is essentially to define Chigurh as a complete and utter homicidal sociopath. We understand this through Chigurh’s actions - the look on his face as he strangles, the fact that he injures himself as much as his victim in killing them - than his dialogue, which is simple, stripped and bare. It is Chigurh’s actions that make him unforgettable, not his haircut, his dressing, or the way he speaks.

The Initial Dialogue. I know, I just poo-pooed dialogue and now I’m telling you that a character must have great dialogue to be memorable. But there’s a difference - it’s initial dialogue, something that reveals something of the character for the future and creates anticipation. This can be a clever one-liner or a deadpan delivery of something spectacular. Take a look at AFI’s ‘Top 100 Movie Quotes’ and you’ll see that many of them, on their own, are pretty unspectacular. But when placed in context of the situation, action and character, they become cultural milestones.

Returning to Anton Chigurh, his spare dialogue in his intro speaks to his cool, demented demeanor. He places the cattle gun to the stranger’s head and utters a single line: 'Would you hold still, please.. It’s a rare admission - a sociopath saying the word ‘please’ but in the context of ‘please stay still so I can kill you.’ It lends meaning to the scene and to the character, and it’s a brilliant and unforgettable line.

It’s not a steadfast rule that the character intro have a great line, but it helps. And it should not be forced, it should organically stem from all that has transpired. But give a great line and it becomes a great sell of that character to an actor - there is no actor on the planet who wouldn’t want that “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn” moment. If not in the intro, your script should have a line that rings out, found in the emotional peaks of the screenplay.

The Description. No A-list actor ever took a role because of the type of pants they were wearing, unless, of course those pants were on fire and they were running through a paint factory. So many screenplays get bogged down in describing how a character looks - some going to the point of describing a specific actor in want of wooing them - and this is time and space wasted. If we are going to describe a character, pick the elements of them that make them distinguishing and speaks to their motives and meaning. Anton Chigurh’s haircut is interesting, but in the reading of a screenplay it has nothing to do with his character, and the Coens make no mention at all to Chigurh’s physical traits other than “his dark hair disappearing into the seat of the squad car.”

P.T. Anderson’s script for There Will Be Blood doesn’t contain any description of Plainview either. Reading the script we don’t really have an idea of what this man looks like, but by the end of the opening we know who he is and the type of man he might be. That’s far more powerful. There are no physical descriptions of him that would help me understand that better - does mentioning that he wears Jodhpur boots say anything about him? Probably not. But imagine if P.T. Anderson, in an alternate universe, described Plainview as wearing beaten denim overalls, with a peek of women’s underwear showing above Plainview’s beltline. Now we’re getting into memorable and meaningful description. That detail says something about the character, about something to expect in the future. Use these descriptive elements wisely and sparingly, and in doing so they become incredibly powerful.

In researching this post I did read the screenplays for There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men, and if I were an actor I’d be beating down the filmmaker’s doors to play these characters. They are interesting, powerful, and they command our attention from the very first frame they are there. They challenge us and themselves.

Also apparent is that neither Anderson or the Coens held anything back in introducing their characters. They went all out and gave us their very best upfront, and sustained it throughout. Your character introduction is not the place to show restraint - it’s said that an audience decides whether or not to emotionally invest into a film within the first ten minutes, so make those ten minutes count and give them a character / situation that will punch them in the gut. A character looking out the window and contemplating life in the opening scene is boring and unengaging. A character looking out the window and contemplating life - sitting naked, covered in blood and listening to Phil Collins is something I won’t forget.

And equally important is how your main characters end. The ending of each character should express exactly who they are, and it should take them to the next level. Again with Plainview - he clubs Eli to death with a bowling pin, throws his hands in the air, and utters “I’m finished” with sardonic satisfaction. He is his own worst enemy, but always in control. He’s taken himself to the next level of depravity. Anton Chigurh walks away from a heinous car accident - bone protruding from his arm - still ready to carry on with his business. It takes Chigurh from being a mortal killer to an immortal killing god. He’s almost indestructible, and he might not be of this planet.

In doing these exercises you not only put the best possible advertisement for an A-list actor to love your script, but you also make your script so much better overall. Screenplays are extremely complex mechanisms that have correlating parts that feed into one another, and a script is only as strong as its weakest element. Improve one element and it will expose the weakness in another. Correct that element and an imbalance is revealed elsewhere. Keep doing this until your screenplay achieves harmony, and when it reaches harmony, it will simply sing off the page. It will read briskly. And that’s exactly what we want - not only for a great screenplay, but for an amazing film!

Screenwriting: Character Relationships

A friendly reminder that ‘Lilith’ is now available for download and DVD pre-order. The initial response has been tremendous, so thank you for your support and let’s keep it up! You can order both the download and DVD (which has tons of cool stuff the download doesn’t have) directly from the distributor by clicking here, or by using the following link: http://store.nehst.com/lilithdvd.html

I’ll stop annoying you now. For today. :)

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Continuing in my screenwriting series, today we’re going to look at one of the key building blocks in any story, which is relationships. So you’ve constructed your story and made memorable characters, now we need to hone in on how these characters interact with one another. Easier said than done, but there is a method to it.

Everyone has relationships to everyone else. Even if you don’t know them, you have a relationship to them because you share space on this planet. There’s a connection there, no matter how obtuse or convoluted. When we look at our key players, the protagonist and antagonist, let’s go through the specific relationships that they will have.

With each other. The protagonist and antagonist have a bond, a common interest, maybe even a bloodline. It is what may keep them from killing each other, or likewise be the fuel for taking each others’ lives.

Love interests. Each of them will have a love interest. It may even be with themselves. Or a fantasy. Love is one of those things that can make rational people make irrational choices. There may also be characters who are simply in love with the idea of being in love, or who may mistake lust for love. Either way, these relationships determine how far one is willing to go, and provides something for those characters to both lose and gain.

Supporting characters. These relationships are generally ones that help aid the protagonist and antagonist in the accomplishment of their central goal. Is there trust in these relationships? Is it purely transactional, for money, or the repayment of a debt?

When assessing these relationships, there are three questions you have to ask to ensure that these are relationships that work:

Are there similarities that allow for a mutual connection to be made? Do these characters have something in common that allows them to make an alliance?

Are there differences that cause a rift? Do they have something that will cause them to fight each other? Answering this question will determine whether or not these characters will stay together, or if their relationship will fully deteriorate and fall apart.

Do they have agendas that are at odds with one another? This is especially pertinent for love interests and supporting characters. What one person wants, another might want something else altogether. Many times these agendas will lay far beneath the surface, and a plot point is generally a time when these agendas come to the surface. An ulterior motive is something that motivates a relationship throughout, and when it becomes exposed, it is generally a major turning point in that relationship.

Answering these questions will be fundamental in determining the individual journey that your protagonist and antagonist must take. And it is very, very important to know that your protagonist and antagonist will have different journeys, but they share the same story. A perfect example of this is a movie like The Karate Kid (both the original and the insipid remake). Each story features a protagonist (Daniel / Dre) and antagonist (Johnny / Cheng) who each has a very different journey to the final endgame. The relationships that they have with their supporting characters each helps them towards their causes, but the nature of the relationships is very different.

Ultimately these exercises will amount to character journeys that we legitimately care about, because they are rooted in the fundamental cornerstones of our own relationships, things we can relate to and identify with. In conjunction with the memorable traits of each character and the story that sets them on their way, we’re on the path towards creating a truly memorable, textured and marketable screenplay. My next installment will focus entirely on the latter aspect, which is the key elements in your screenplay that will grab the attention of those who will give you money. It’s a big one.

Screenwriting: Functional Stories

In terms of importance, crafting a story always comes before creating memorable characters. Memorable characters are meaningless unless they have something to do, and a reason to do it. This is the base foundation of our screenplay, and everything we do thereafter is built upon it. If we construct a screenplay on a shaky or weak foundation, then the entire enterprise threatens to collapse. It will be a failure.

It’s a pretty bold statement to blankly declare something a failure - after all, you may have amazing characters, dialogue, and action that you feel take your project to the next level. But dialogue and action are just means of expressing a story, and if that story is flawed, then so too will your snappy dialogue and amazing action be completely out of place and lacking conviction. We also have to hold ourselves to the absolute highest standard when it comes to our writing - never think that things can be fixed later, on the set, when in the hands of a capable director and talented cast. No. Your screenplay is the starting block, it must shine without the help of any extraneous factors. If you know there is a problem with your screenplay, then keep revising it until you get it right. You absolutely cannot submit it to any companies, financiers, etc. until it is in the absolute best place it can possibly be.

And when I say rewrite, I mean rewrite. There is a grand distinction between what is rewriting and what is simply editing. Many writers consider editing - which is essentially paring text down, proofreading, and shifting the sequence of events - as a rewrite. It is not. Editing is simply manipulating what already exists. Rewriting, on the other hand, is the active creation, reconstruction and redesigning of your screenplay. Editing will be the very last step of your screenwriting journey. Until then, put your brutally honest cap on and eat a slice of humble pie - it’s time to be relentless with your own work.

We all have stories - they have a beginning, middle and end. We can write stories with our eyes closed, and if they are true to our experiences and perspectives, they will be interesting. But a story is not the sole part of a screenplay. We have to think of a screenplay as a timeline, a charting of events. For the story to be functional as a screenplay, it must have a structure.

Of course there are a myriad of structures that can be employed - Steven Zallian’s script for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo employed an unusual five-act structure so as to accommodate the two very different worlds that the film inhabits. I wrote about my own personal structure of choice last year, the Kurosawa Sonata-Form, which you read all about by clicking here.

In our writing process, we want to make absolutely sure that the structure is clear, very clear. This is not the time to be ‘maverick writer’ and break all the rules of conventional screenwriting. Irrespective if your film works on a series of flashbacks or is told in reverse chronology, you will still have to adhere to these basic structural elements. This is very easy to check. On a blank piece of paper, write out the following:

Opening

Inciting Incident

Act 1 Turning Point

Mid Point

Act 2 Turning Point

Dilemma

Climax

Denouement

Ending

These are the basic parts of a three-act structure, broken down into screenwriting parlance. They are the beats of your structure, and every screenplay should have these elements. You might say that your film is open-ended, but that’s still an ending. If your screenplay is missing one of these beats, then you don’t have a screenplay. And if you do have all of these beats, then we need to make sure that they are clear. This is a very simple task but it requires a little bit of elbow grease.

For each beat, I want you to write out one sentence that describes the very essence of that beat. One simple sentence only. If it is longer than one sentence, then you’re not making it clear. For example, in Citizen Kane, the beat of the Opening is one simple sentence: Charles Foster Kane dies, rich and alone, uttering ‘Rosebud’ as his final word. Everything surrounding that beat is contained in that one sentence - we meet Kane, we see his surroundings, we see him die, and he utters the word ‘Rosebud.’ In the opening we are introduced to the protagonist, and we understand basic things about him: he is rich, he is isolated, he is brooding, he is defined by his possessions, he has everything and yet his final word is the desire for something else.

Like this, do a sentence for each of your beats. (NOTE: For the sake of brevity I won’t go into the basic definitions of each category, but a good starting point is in my Kurosawa Sonata-Form post.) If your beats are unclear, then you know they must be rewritten.

After doing this exercise and determining the weak points of your structure, you must next assess the strength of your overall conflict in your story. Your conflict should be present throughout the story, and an audience watching the film must never forget it. It must be omnipresent, even when it is not being talked about onscreen. The paramount element to a strong conflict is your main character’s emotional dilemma: essentially, it is the key choice that a protagonist must make. But most importantly, either way they choose, the character stands to lose something. This makes for a strong dilemma. Think of a film like Avatar - the central conflict is Jake Sully’s choice - destroy the Na’vi and lose his lover and in the process regaining his legs and honoring the legacy of his brother, or fight alongside the Na’vi and risk both never being able to walk again, and losing his life in the battle. This is a compelling conflict, because so much is at stake on his decision, and the conflict he faces is consistent throughout the film.

Having refined the conflict of the story and addressing the weak points of the structure, it’s time to put your story to the test. Your next task is to write a one-page summary of your entire screenplay. Your summary should just be a straight up summation, more like a book report. I want you to write two versions of this summary:

The first summary is the aforementioned book report. Present the beats and the conflict, and make sure it all fits on one page. Trim and simplify your language/ sentences so that it all fits on one page. Don’t mess with font sizes and spacing like we did in school. Choose Courier, 12-point size and write it all out. Make sure to highlight the high points of your story, and most importantly, try to isolate what your overall vision for the story is. Keep writing it until your story makes you feel inspired. Once you’re finished, put it away for a few hours, even a day. Do something else, something non-screenplay / story oriented. Go shopping. Play a game of tennis. Flirt with that cute barista at the coffee shop.


Oh just go up there and talk to her, you big ol’ wuss.

Now come back to your one-page summary and read it a few times. Don’t make corrections or revisions - put that pen away - and just read it. Think about things for a little, and then I want you to write your second summary. With this one-page summary I want you to describe why you love this story, and specifically what is it that you love about it. No room for negativity here, this is the very core of why you’re writing in the first place. This will become the most important document in your writing process. You’re putting on paper the overall vision of your story, and you will have to refer back to this document always to make sure you’re staying on point, that you’re focused.

These two documents should always inspire you. If they don’t then go back to step one in refining your conflict and structure. And be honest about inspiration - there’s no such thing as ‘good enough’ when it comes to love. You either are or you aren’t. Keep working on your story until it’s all you can think about, you dream about it, and you can’t wait to see it turn into something real. Sort of like that cute barista.

Screenwriting: Creating Memorable Characters and Character Profiles

The best characters in cinema are almost always extraordinary. Even the most seemingly mundane - think of Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of Harvey Pekar in American Splendor - can be extraordinarily mundane or ineffectual, to the point that they become special.

Of course great characters aren’t the bread and butter of a screenplay - that honor belongs to the story itself - but without memorable characters, the story, irrespective of how creative or solidly plotted, becomes uninteresting. Our stories must have an unforgettable conflict that runs from page one to end, but without memorable characters, we won’t be able to invest ourselves into the conflict, and we tend not to care.

So let’s assume that we’ve got a story plotted out (which is a big assumption, I’ll write more about story in a later post), and our goal is to create memorable characters to inhabit that story. Believe it or not, there is a method to this. One way is to base your characters off of real life people that you’ve met - those people who, when they enter a room, have a definite way about them. You now who I’m talking about; if we look at our friends, each of them brings something to the party. There’s the funny guy, the intense girl, the analytic killjoy, the bohemian hippie. But these are archetypes, and not character traits. Character traits are what takes people out of being archetypes and makes them truly unique, and in order to create unique characters, we have have to define their character traits and create a much bigger character profile. These profiles are going to be your reference throughout your writing process. This is a very powerful tool, so take this work seriously.

Take out a sheet of paper and write down the name of the lead character in your story, and write the following four categories under the name:

TRAITS

MOTIVATION

FLAW

SUBTEXT

We’ll now break down each of these categories.

TRAITS: A character trait is, as aforementioned, what makes someone who they are, every time they show up. I’ve got a pretty dry sense of humor, and people have come to associate me with that. I consider myself a good listener, and I genuinely care about other people, and that’s a trait I’ve come to be associated with. I’m also a bit flaky, and tend to take on too many things, and as a result suffer from diminishing returns. That’s an unfortunate trait of mine, but it’s still a trait. But those traits are also generalizations. There are millions of people who can be identified by those same traits, and if we have characters with those traits in our stories, they’re definitely people we can relate to, but they’re not memorable.

Here’s how you fix that. When thinking of the traits of a character, pick three familiar / generalized traits, and then pick one final trait that is completely out of left field. This is what will make your character absolutely memorable.

For example. Think of a police officer or detective. What are three familiar traits of a cop? Principled. Trustworthy. Analytical. That’s off the top of my head, and that can describe a litany of cops that have showed up in literature and film. But what if I add to this as a final character trait: sex addict. This pulls our blah cop into really interesting, memorable territory. Immediately I can think of interesting conflicts and dilemmas that my character would face. How does he / she treat sex workers? Their own spouse? What does power mean to them? Is the gun an extension of that power? That final character trait is what takes someone we can relate to and makes them extraordinary and memorable. This will work for you every single time, and will be one of the most powerful tools you will ever have in your writing. Seriously.


Play with expectations.

MOTIVATION: A character’s motivation is their goal in your story, what they want to accomplish. There are two kinds of motivation for each character: internal and external, and your character must have both. The external motivation is the goal of the story, basically what your character is fighting for. Frodo in Lord of the Rings needs to deliver his ring to Mordor and dispose of it. Luke Skywalker must rescue Princess Leia. Batman must capture the Joker. It’s pretty simple, and should be able to be delivered in one, concise sentence.

The internal motivation, however, is something a little more complex. It’s something deep inside a character that they’re trying to satisfy, and it’s generally never explicitly stated in a screenplay, it always remains under the skin. Frodo’s internal motivation could be to prove his worth, living in the shadow of Bilbo Baggins. Luke Skywalker wants to demonstrate his manhood, and slay the meek demon of self-doubt and insecurity. Batman will forever be trying to avenge the death of his parents, to fill the loneliness of being an orphan. While complex in nature, the internal motivation too must be able to be written in a single sentence. Go too long in your description of internal motivation and you’ll burden your characters.

FLAW: This is pretty basic. A flaw is not necessarily something that is disagreeable, rather it is something that is sabotaging the success of the character, something that impeding their ability to reach their goal. A flaw can also be a positive trait: think of a person who cannot tell a lie, who is put into a situation where if they tell the truth, then someone dies. A memorable character is someone who rises to the occasion despite their flaw; they needn’t necessarily lose that flaw but they can, at least temporarily, rise above it or conversely succumb to it.

SUBTEXT: Subtext is a complex category that can easily be simplified. It is essentially a secret that the character has. To give your character subtext is to provide them with something that they are hiding from the world, something that they do not wish to share with the other characters. The key to subtext in a story, however, is that the secret must be always, always be under the threat of being exposed.

For example, think of Daniel Plainview fromThere Will Be Blood. Let’s do his complete character profile before we get into the subtext. His traits: he is ambitious, he is shrewd, he is convincing as a speaker, and he’s a complete sociopath. His external motivation is to own all the oil fields all the way to the Pacific Ocean, his internal motivation is to destroy anyone that stands in his way. His flaw is that he has a complete inability to form intimate human relationships.

Now we get to the subtext. P.T. Anderson gives us several moments in Plainview that give us insight into the character’s subtext, and it all revolves around family. Plainview makes several references to abandonment and lonliness, and we have to glean a subtext that he himself had been abandoned at some point, and anyone that threatens to expose that raw wound will die at his hand. Eli tries to become his friend and is killed. Henry claims to be his brother and when he gets too close, Plainview kills him off. In my assessment, the subtext of the character is that he was abandoned, and he doesn’t want anyone to know that.

Now make these character profiles for each and every single character in your story. Even the smaller parts. It’s a hell of a lot of work, but then nobody ever said that writing a screenplay was never a hell of a lot of work. It’s why the best screenwriters get paid a fortune. Once your profiles are complete, copy them to a set of notecards and keep them at the ready when you write. Every time you are stuck in your writing, refer back to these profiles and think of how your character would genuinely react to that situation. See if you’re being consistent to the character throughout. In your rewrite, if you find a scene to be boring, then refer to their traits and bring in that leftfield element, and see what happens. The story will always drive the characters, but it is compelling characters that will always bring the story to life, give it richness, and ultimately give it meaning.

Note too that this is a vital exercise for both actors and directors, as these can be the core tools with which to craft performance beats and important beneath-the-skin adjustments.

So I’m going to give you homework. I want you to practice making character profiles. Watch one movie a night or every other night and make character profiles of the characters in the film. Practice this until it becomes easier, and always, always be creative. That’s the reason we got into this line of work in the first place!

Tomorrow

Niki & The Dove

Instinct

Played 519 times

Music for the Weekend: Tomorrow by Niki and the Dove.

It’s been an excruciatingly long week. I just finished cutting the new Lilith trailer and to be honest, I wasn’t happy with it, the pacing was off. After doing five different versions (and averaging three hours of sleep a night for these past four days), I decided that I just really liked the first trailer I did last year. So I just “remixed” it, upgrading the old footage with the 4k color corrected footage, and adding in some new footage from the film.

I might put out the other versions - they’re good but they just don’t feel as intuitively good as the original. After exercising every available option, I just had to go with my gut and not mess with a good thing.

But as for now I’m so incredibly tired. This weekend I’m writing a production bible for a web series that I’ve been developing for the past few months, and finishing my rewrite on my Paul Pope project. After Saturday though, I’m hitting the hay, getting some sleep, and then watching football. Can’t wait. Tomorrow can’t come sooner.

Have a great weekend!